I am going to go out on a (mangrove) limb here and proclaim that the best food can be found in the bars and pubs of any community.
Yes I know, I am a foodie and I am supposed to appreciate the finer, more complex dishes created by hard-working and creative chefs … which I do. But time and time again, it is the simpler fare of watering holes and gathering places that produce the best food memories.
It rings true here in the Virgin Islands, as well. Each grilled mahi mahi sandwich I savor sitting on a worn wooden barstool with my feet half covered in sand, represents the most delicious culinary experiences for me. The citrus-marinated, nut crusted, blackened or plain ole grilled fish nestled in a buttered and grilled egg bun leaves me with the same satisfaction as the same piece of fish put forth on a 14-inch white ceramic plate as part of a culinary tower of food art. Both have their place.
There is just something about the spots where the regular folks eat — the locals stepping away for lunch, hungry tourists just in from a day of boating, or workmen sitting around a table exhausted after a long day of grueling work. I experienced this same thing in Ireland, Italy and Mexico.
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s my interest in the psychology of how people gather in communities. Or maybe it’s just the rum punch talking … but these are the culinary treasures that I am drawn to studying. The Chester’s Hideaways, the Vies Snack Shacks, the Driftwood Daves, the Shipwreck Bars, the Sun Dog Cafes and the Skinny Legs Bars are where it happens for me.